STRUGGLING WITH THE CHALLENGE

As I was struggling with what to write for this week’s blog entry. I was complaining about it to a fellow artist that I hadn’t completed any new work to share here. In fact, I have been kind of stumped lately.  I have hardly worked on my art in the last few weeks.

She urged me to share my frustrations with you, “when I see only new, completed work, (on a blog) it feels like the artist is constantly producing,. That makes me feel disheartened about my work habits. I like to know that they sometimes get stuck, that it doesn’t always go smoothly.” A good point, Shayna.

This painting got started in Mississippi Art Colony and I have worked on it for a while. It's a biggie-4 foot square.

This painting got started in Mississippi Art Colony and I have worked on it for a while. It’s a biggie-4 foot square.

So here I am fessing up. I completed a major project, which I worked on pretty consistently for 4 weeks.after bringing its start home from Mississippi Art Colony. I also started another when in Mississippi but when I started to work on it, I felt uncertain. I liked it, it was a good beginning  but going forward, I was unsure of where to take it.

This 8" square painting is the other one I've been working on in acrylic. Not sure that it has enough sparkle to be successful or complete.

This 8″ square painting is the other one I’ve been working on in acrylic. Not sure that it has enough sparkle to be successful or complete.

I made another small painting. It was ok but lacks sparkle.

I continued with an impressionistic painting I started a few months ago, in oil stick. I haven’t worked with these in quite a while. Sitting in the drawer, they got sticky and broke as I used them. It’s been a frustrating time. This is where it is right now.

Working through these periods is the advice one frequently hears. And while I agree that you will never have a good painting unless you persevere through the difficult parts, sometimes it takes more.

Here is the impressionistic landscape in oil stick, maybe 75% done. I'm struggling with the materials.

Here is the impressionistic landscape in oil stick, maybe 75% done. I’m struggling with the materials.

I decided to go back to a style and way of working that I had left behind for a while.  I started an impressionistic landscape with oil sticks.  The sticks have gotten sticky with heat and age and I’m finding it difficult to get the effects I’d like.

I believe that you should enjoy the painting process, even when it is challenging. So I will take my own advice and find a project that excites me, that makes me WANT to get painting again. I’ll let you know when I have a project that rings my bells!

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DRAWING IN THE DARK

I love going to see live performances. I am a sucker for musicals and, I fact, love theater of all kinds.  A supporter of the Brave New World Repertory Theater, I have good friends in the company, making seeing their performances even more fun.

It’s really wonderful to watch dance too, probably because I always knew it was beyond my reach.  In fact, I go to the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center regularly because we have had a subscription in my family for more than 40 years.

Somehow, watching other people engage in their art makes me want to engage in my art as well. That has led me to develop the habit of drawing in the dark.  Sometimes, it’s pitch dark and I am drawing completely blind, leading to some jumbled up drawings.   The kick I get is in being able to capture the performance in any way. I love having my art making be part of the experience!

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The corps du ballet all wore these wonderful tutus with a crown to top it off. Every little girl’s dream costume.

Here are some of my drawings from the last time I saw NYCB performing “A Mid Summers Nights Dream.” IMG_2973 IMG_2970

The petite powerhouse of a conductor at the New York City Ballet.

The petite powerhouse of a conductor at the New York City Ballet.

One sketch often overlaps the other

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Several ballerinas on one page.

  Such fun, drawing in the dark!

Performers during a recent production of

Performers during a recent production of “Major Barbara” by Brave New World Repertory Theater

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BRINGING ARTS TO AFRICA

Earlier this year, I was on a trip to Africa that took me to Malawi where I visited schools. The children were so lively and enthusiastic. They loved meeting us because we were from somewhere far away and their enthusiasm overflowed. school children Malawi

I was traveling with a contingent from Books For Africa which has donated millions of books throughout Africa and we were hosted by the Malawi National Library Service. They are key to the successful book distribution there because they sort and distribute the books they receive based on the needs of the schools throughout the country. We went to some schools that seemed to resemble our and others, those that are not at the top of the list for showing off.

These schools had no electricity, no lighting. The only source of light were clover-shaped cinder blocks that served instead of windows.Malawi school

Inside, the room was dark. Children shared desks. There was crud that crawled up the walls from the floor. The blackboard was painted on and so were instructional charts.Malawi classroomAnd while all the students were learning reading and math, not once did I see any signs of learning the arts and being creative.

I came home determined to do something about it. So I am working with my daughter, Shayna Zelko Kalish, and we are creating Arts For Africa to give these children a chance to learn and exercise their creativity.

We hope you will share this “coming soon” video with friends. I’ll keep you posted as it develops.

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CHALLENGING VIDEO

I have been a member of a group of creative cohorts for the last couple of years.  They have provided me with support, inspiration and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on when things have gone awry.

So when one of my cohorts set up a video challenge, I was intrigued. I have been looking for a way to reach you, so you could get to know me more personally. Making my own videos seemed a daunting challenge but since they would be shared in the safe space of my group, I decided to give it a run.image

Here is the first video I created for the challenge. I talk about my painting “Pink”, 30w x 40h, acrylic on canvas. While I always put a Brooklyn Bridge symbol in my paintings, they are usually hidden. Here you get a good look at it.  I’m happy to hear what you think!

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MERMAIDS ON PARADE

Sometimes the place where you live is the perfect travel destination. That was the case this weekend in Brooklyn because it was the annual Mermaid Parade in famous Coney Island.

This is the time when people can express their creativity, and maybe also, exhibitionism and have a great time sharing their ingenuity with the world. It isn’t a rule driven parade and just about anybody who wants to can participate in it. Plus the spectators also get dressed for the occasion. All in all, it’s a great big party.

I went with my husband, daughter and a couple of her friends. On the way there, I bought a giant bubble wand & had fun with that on the boardwalk. Here’s a pic of our group.

Trying out the giant bubbles as we arrived in Coney Island.

Trying out the giant bubbles as we arrived in Coney Island.

It was great fun and I made a video of some of it to share with you. Please understand that I am still learning the video basics as I participate in a video challenge this month. Excuse the problems with it. Thanx!

Hope you enjoyed it!

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DONE ALREADY?

Friday morning, the last day of Mississippi art colony, started off warm and balmy with the kind of sunshine that makes you happy to start the day. It was hard to believe that Colomy was wrapping up today, I felt like I was just getting in my stride.

Yesterday I started another large painting,, 50″ x 46″ and, because of my large workspace, I could set up the paintings on opposite sides of the room, allowing me to have a perspective on boh simultaneously. 

 I began this painting with a mix of muted primary colors, smearing them across the canvas. I added the large oval lines,drawing directly from the bottles.

  

I am now adding blocks of solid color. Still quite a way from finished.

Working back and forth between the paintings meant no lost time while paint dried. I was feeling the pressure as the finish loomed large. It was kind of disappointing that Colony was ending; I felt I was just coming into my stride. I guess I’m a bit of a late bloomer. Still more to go, I was able to make good headway on both before packing up to go home. 

Then I went to get changed for the evening’s gala, a Black and White Ball!

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AFRICAN INSPIRATION

Thursday is always a busy one at this art retreat. The first day is spent getting your stuff set up and then the second, one gets working but there’s a lot of socializing as well. By the third day, which is Thursday, the pressure starts to build. One realizes that you have to get them to work because there’s only one more day left after this one! 

I worked steadily in order to get my elephant to come to life. It’s a complex painting and a complex problem to create a living creature within it. Using washes and glazes, I was able to push back the top of the painting and bring form to the elephant within. It’s a rare luxury for me to have a large wall on which to hang my work android work in large room where I can stand back and get a real perspective on it. 

I know this piece is going to take a lot more work to finish but I feel I have a certain direction that I plan to go to with it. 
Being part of Mississippi Art Colony brings with it certain responsibilities. We are charged with creating an original art trading card, known as ATC, for the guest artist, Mary Warner. The guest artist has an important role as they visit  with each of the working artists, critiquing and advising on what they are creating. She also gave the presentation of her work and tonight will critique works that each artist has brought in front of the group so we may all learn from it. This is the ATC I made as a souvenir for Mary.  

 

We were also charged to make a 12 in. square painting that is to be auctioned at the banquet on Friday night to raise money for the scholarship fund. The ATC and 12 x 12 painting were conceived on the theme of 50 shades of gray. This was a real challenge for me, as you can well imagine, since  I never work in black , white or gray. Continuing to use my photographs from the recent trip to Namibia, I made this painting. 

 

Considering I was very reticent to do this assignment, I’m pretty pleased with the results. What do you think?
 

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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

On my second day of painting in Mississippi, I continued to wrangle with that giant-4 feet by 5 feet- abstract. It was a double challenge for me, not only because of the size but also because I have been painting mostly in the square format. Changing to a rectangle changes the whole way I design the painting. With the square format, it is likely that the center of interest will hover somewhere around the central third however, with a rectangular design, there can be A variety of focal points or the center of interest maybe to one side. Then it needs to be balanced with other elements of the design to make it successful. Having been away from rectangular design for quite a while makes it more difficult for me to figure it out.

As I contemplated my design, I reminded myself of the commitment I made to myself after traveling to Africa this winter, to generate a series of 20 pieces based on my experiences in Africa. I decided to work on the series with this piece by creating a large elephant to the right-hand side of the design. This is where I was at the end of the day. 

 

Mississippi Artcolony sponsors a competition for exhibition. Each of the artists, most of whom are local and have no transportation issues, brings a piece to be juried for inclusion in the show. There is a peer award given and each of us here gets to vote on their favorite. I’ve taken some photographs of my favorite entries into this competition.

   

  

  

 This one above is by my buddy, Cathy Hegman. A fabulous artist, she’s the reason I’m here in Mississippi. 

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BIG CANVAS

Here I am in Mississippi! One would think it would be warm and balmy but instead it was in the mid 50s and raining. I am ill prepared for it, wearing crop pants, a light cardigan and Birkenstocks. After eating breakfast, I headed up to the outdoor pavilion where I was to set up my temporary studio. It was a tough day painting outside in the bone chilling damp but I was exhilarated to be here.

My big challenge for this week is to paint larger than I have in the past. I had a roll of canvas shipped that I figured I would tape to the wall. Luckily, one of my fellow painters had a stretched canvas that I wrapped my canvas around, making it easier to work on. When I’m done, I’ll untape it, roll it up and ship it home.

I started with acrylic ink in reds, purple and yellow. I put these inks on and started spraying so I had lots of drips.  When I was happy with this and the ink dried, I continued, turning the painting 90° and adding more color. Smearing and spraying, the canvas was a kind of grid of color. This is what it looked like at the end of the day, still very much a work in progress. 

 
I shared the space with several other artists. Here’s a peek at what they were working on today. 

     Check back tomorrow to see how I’m progressing.

 

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ART COLONY

I spent all day yesterday trying to get organized for my trip down to Utica, Mississippi,just outside the state capital,  Jackson, for my week at Mississippi Art Colony. Airline restrictions and charges meant I had to get all my tools and equipment- paint, brushes, knives, masks, drawing materials, etc. – into one suitcase. 

 It’s an exciting prospect to spend the week painting, with other painters, not having to worry about the demands of daily life but getting there can be harrowing.

The trip takes the better part of the day, flying first into Atlanta”s giant Hartsfield  Airport, 

then changing to a slightly smaller plane on to Jackson. I was picked up by another artist, also an out of towner,  but one with Mississippi roots. 

I know that I am the only artist; here from the North. This gives me a certain unearned noteriety and I guess my home makes them conjure up assutions about me, just as I have about the South. Hearing the lilting female tones make announcements takes me immediately to the stereotype of vapid voices, sultry and seductive. This is a solid group of artists and the environment will be stimulating.

After our hard winter, it was a welcome sight to see the orchards of pecan trees and honeysuckle profusely growing at the side of the road. 

   

Checked in and so it begins. I will share with you my process and insights as the week progresses.

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